Last week news surfaced that Evan Tanner was likely to be tapped at the opponent to face Dean Lister at UFC 79 in Las Vegas in December. Both MMA on Tap and Fightlinker are now reporting the news adding credibility to the initial rumors.
Tanner is a very experience mixed martial artist and a former UFC champion. After being dealt back-to-back losses by Rich Franklin and David Loiseau Tanner faced Justin Levens at UFC 59 in April of 2006. Despite winning the bout he essentially disappeared from the sport until he surfaced as a rumored participant for several UFC events. Although those rumors never panned out (primarily because he was not under contract with the UFC) it seems likely that he will make his return at UFC 79.
Lister is a submission specialist holding a 9-5 MMA record. 8 of his 9 wins have come by way of submissions with the lone exception being a decision win at UFC Fight Night 6 last year. After opening his career by winning 6 of 7 bouts Lister has struggled of late going 3-4 in his last 7 fights. In the UFC he defeated Alessio Sakara and Yuki Sasaki but was defeated by Nate Marquardt at UFC Fight Night 8 in his last trip to the octagon.
With the middleweight needing all the midly-competitiive fighters it can round up right now it is surprising that they would put Tanner and Lister head to head in their return bouts rather than building them up for a top contender match later in 2008. The UFC’s decision to immediately match them up all but guarantees they consider both viable title contenders and is looking to throw them directly back into the top of the middleweight division.